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Wyoming comes back in second half for victory at Air Force

Jan 23, 2014 - From staff reports

No coach, no problem for the University of Wyoming men's basketball team.

OK, it wasn't that easy, but the Cowboys overcame a 15-point first half deficit -- its largest of the season -- and an 11-point hole early in the second half to beat Air Force 66-59 in front of 1,881 at Clune Arena Wednesday night.

UW (12-6 overall, 3-2 Mountain West) has won three straight and snapped a three-game losing streak to Air Force (9-9, 3-4). The story was reported by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Wednesday morning, coach Larry Shyatt became ill and decided it was best not to coach the team. The illness isn't considered serious, and Shyatt expects to be at practice today.

That left assistant Allen Edwards as the guy in charge as he did the scout and game plan for this game.

"This was a team effort, not only (the players) on the court but us as a staff," Edwards said. "It wasn't an Allen Edwards deal. It was a good job of coach Shyatt training us as a staff, along with this team, to go out and get a win on the road."

Things didn't look good for a while as UW shot 40.9 percent from the field in the first half and made only 1 of 7 3-pointers. Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. and junior point guard Riley Grabau were in foul trouble.

It looked like UW not only would get beat, but badly. UW trailed 35-28 at halftime, but the deficit grew to 11 a minute into the second half.

"We told the guys to stay the course, and if we keep at it and stick with the game plan it would eventually turn our way," Edwards said.

And it started with defense.

The Cowboys allowed only nine points over the final 11 minutes, 39 seconds of the game. They also made 11 of 18 shots and all 14 of their free throws in the second half.

For the game UW was 23 of 25 from the line, its second consecutive game of shooting better than 90 percent. It also forced 17 turnovers and scored 22 points off those miscues. And, the Cowboys' bench scored 19 points compared to only two for the Falcons.

Nance recorded game-highs with 20 points and nine rebounds. He gave the Cowboys the lead for good at 58-57 with 3:07 to play with a pair of free throws. He scored the team's next four points after that.

Junior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. sealed the victory with short runner with 18 seconds left.

Sophomore guard Josh Adams had 17 points for the Cowboys, including 10 in the second half. Senior guard Nathan Sobey scored in double figures for the fourth straight game with 10. Senior guard Jerron Granberry added nine points, a game-high three steals and played a career-high 37 minutes.

"Resiliency," said Nance about this team, which now has had nine games decided by eight points or less and is 4-5 in those games.

"I'm going to keep using that word because we can face adversity and bounce back like nobody's business. We've done it many times this year, and we're going to keep doing it."

It was a tale of two halves for Air Force, too. They shot 50 percent from the field in the first half but just 39.1 percent in the second. The Falcons also got to the free-throw line only 10 times, three in the second half.

"We were tentative in the second half," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We had 16 turnovers and you can't beat them with that many. We built a 15-point lead and (UW) went to a zone and we had some easy possessions early against it.

"Then, once things got tighter and tighter we couldn't relax our guys. That's my fault. They played tentative and played a little scared there at the end and that was disappointing."

Junior forward Kamryn Williams, who scored 25 points and 10 rebounds against UW here last season, led the Falcons with 17 points. Sophomore guard Tre' Coggins added 15 and junior forward Justin Hammonds had 13 points, but only two in the second half.

UW hosts Nevada at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium. UW lost its conference opener at Nevada 61-58 on Jan. 4.

"I say this in most of my interviews, but we have to play Cowboys defense," Adams said. "We have to get steals and get out in transition. Coach Shyatt always says don't look too far ahead and don't look back.

"We're going to prepare what we need to prepare for, and we're going to go pull another one out."

Free throws

UW has won three straight Mountain West games for the first time since February 2009. ... UW leads the series 74-33 and is 31-19 at Air Force. ... The Cowboys shot 50 percent from the field, which is the ninth time this season it has shot 50 percent or better. ... UW improved to 12-2 when shooting better from the field than its opponent. ... Hankerson's 14 minutes matched his career high with the Cowboys . ... The Cowboys improved to 3-5 this season when trailing at halftime. ... Air Force is 2-6 when scoring less than 70 points. ... The Cowboys evened their record on Wednesdays to 2-2.

Cowgirls win big

Coming off a disappointing loss at San Jose State on Saturday, the University of Wyoming Cowgirls was looking for a fast start Wednesday against Air Force.

They got it by going inside to senior Fallon Lewis and junior Kayla Woodward.

Lewis scored the first six points of the game -- all on baskets around the rim. She and Woodward combined for 14 of UW's first 16 points as the Cowgirls built a quick 12-0 lead and never looked back, winning 82-47 before an announced crowd of 3,082 at the Arena-Auditorium.

The win was the 18th straight for Wyoming (12-4 overall, 3-2 Mountain West) in the series with Air Force (1-16, 0-7). The Cowgirls have won the last 10 by an average margin of 34.8 points.

Wyoming won Wednesday's game by attacking the Air Force inside. AFA changed up its normal lineup and went with four guards.

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